Jeroen Oerlemans, Dutch Journalist, Is Killed by ISIS Sniper in Libya

Dutch photojournalist Jeroen Oerlemans has been shot dead by an alleged Islamic State (ISIS) sniper in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte, colleagues and local media report. It comes 4 years after Oerlemans was briefly abducted in Syria.

A prominent Dutch photojournalist who had once been taken hostage by Islamist extremists in Syria was fatally shot on Sunday by an Islamic State sniper in the coastal city of Surt, a Libyan government spokesman said.

CAIRO — The photojournalist, Jeroen Oerlemans, was shot several times in the chest while covering the front line of a battle between pro-government forces and the Islamic State, according to Reda Eissa, the government spokesman.

Mr. Oerlemans’s death was a painful reminder of the dangers that journalists face while covering armed conflicts.

Mr. Oerlemans, 46, left behind three children and a girlfriend, a colleague, Ruth Vandewalle, said. Dutch officials, journalists and Libya analysts paid tribute to him on social media soon after word of his death spread.

“Thank you for shining your light on the misery of others,” Yvettev Eechoud, the director of European and international affairs at the Netherlands’ Ministry of Economic Affairs, wrote on Twitter.

“Your photographs of #Sirte #Libya and other places will live on forever. Condolences to all who loved him,” Eric Strating, the Netherlands’ ambassador to Libya, also posted on Twitter, using an alternative spelling of Surt.

Mr. Oerlemans, whose work was most recently featured in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, previously covered the Syrian civil war. The Islamic State’s affiliate there abducted him and held him for a week in 2012 before Syrian opposition fighters freed him.

About 50 members of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and eight pro-government fighters also died in the clash that killed Mr. Oerlemans, Mr. Eissa said.

Libya has descended into chaos since its longtime ruler, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, was deposed and killed in 2011. It is bitterly divided among three main factions: a United Nations-backed unity government in the capital, Tripoli; an Islamist government also in Tripoli; and an anti-Islamist government in the east.

The Surt campaign, which is led by militias supporting the United Nations-backed government, began in May and has yet to fully dislodge the Islamic State from the city. About 200 of the group’s fighters remain in Surt, most holed up in the neighborhood where Mr. Oerlemans was killed.

“These guys have nothing left here, so they are fighting hard. They are even making their wounded fight,” Mr. Eissa said. “We find medical equipment on them and bandages all the time. The more they lose, the harder they fight.”

Oerlemans and British journalist John Cantlie were both kidnapped in Syria in September 2012 and held for about a week, during which they were shot while trying to escape. It is unclear who held them but Oerlemans said after their rescue that their captors were not of Syrian origin.  Cantlie was also freed at the time, but he was later abducted again and remains a captive of the Islamic State, which has used Cantlie for propaganda. Writing on Twitter, Oerlemans had expressed hope for Cantlie’s safe release. “Still hoping he’ll be home one day,” he wrote in his last tweet in July.


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